All organisations rely on a healthy and vital workforce. Sometimes, however, absence due to sickness or injury can’t be avoided. That’s when a.s.r.’s occupational reintegration experts step in with advice and solutions. One of them is case manager Edwin Weigert, who helped client Gina Schuurman regain her physical and mental wellbeing following a lengthy spell of absence from work. ‘Edwin offered the right treatment at the right time.’
‘I’ve never been so ill as I was then. Despite being young and fit, I was extremely tired and short of breath’, says Gina Schuurman, 33. Gina had worked for a year as a financial and ESG analyst when she got Covid-19 and was off work for six weeks. ‘It was so difficult for me to accept that I was unable to work. After three weeks of sitting at home, I tried to go back but I just couldn’t manage it’.
So after six weeks, she decided to build up her hours again in consultation with the company doctor. ‘All I wanted was to become fully operational again, as I was before’. But in November she realised it still wasn’t working. Looking back now, she has a better idea of where things were going wrong. ‘I’d just moved house and because of the Covid restrictions I was working mainly from home in what was a new job. As a result, I had to get to know new colleagues online, whereas the thing I really valued was working with others in an office environment. What’s more, everything that energised me outside work was out of bounds due to the pandemic. I was therefore doing too many activities that depleted my energy and too few that gave me energy’. She took the problem to her line manager, who suggested she take a period of extended Christmas leave.
While she was on leave, Gina came into contact with Edwin Weigert. As an absenteeism case manager and reintegration specialist for a.s.r., he advises the company and its employees on how to manage individual cases of sickness absence. He felt that Gina was suffering from compound absenteeism: she’d fallen sick, and subsequently built back most of her hours before having to reduce them again. Edwin adds: ‘That shows there’s something more fundamental going wrong. My job was to find out what it was and work out how to help her resolve the problem’.
During their phone conversations, Edwin noted that Gina problems weren’t just physical but also had a mental component. ‘Coping with Covid hadn’t just taken a toll on her body but also on her mental wellbeing’. He therefore suggested a rehabilitation process designed by TIGRA, an occupational health service provider with experience of people with long-Covid symptoms. ‘The process I had in mind focuses on both physical and mental rehabilitation’.
The support provided by Edwin brought about an improvement in Gina. ‘Edwin said he could help me provided I told him what I needed. I was initially a bit stubborn, thinking I could make myself better without help. But eventually I couldn’t ignore what my body was telling me’. As Edwin explains the TIGRA approach, Gina enthusiastically endorses what he says. ‘Edwin offered the right treatment at the right time’.
After a holiday during which she began to ask herself whether her work was really making her happy, Gina began her reintegration process. She visited a physiotherapist and manual therapist who helped her to become physically stronger. She was also assigned a coach. ‘She encouraged me to be brave enough to make my own choices. That was a bit nerve-racking as I realised I was having increasing doubts about my job. But it was extremely useful: I finally felt I was making progress’.
Edwin periodically calls Gina to ask how things are going. ‘Edwin is highly engaged and was a fantastic help by offering me this comprehensive package coupled with professional support’. Edwin adds that Gina also had to deal with her own doubts. ‘You can’t ignore the question of whether your work is giving you satisfaction. Because if you build back your hours but don’t actually like your job, you’ll go backwards again very quickly’.
While undergoing the rehabilitation process, Gina realised she didn’t want to carry on in her existing job. ‘My employer and I discussed the situation and eventually parted company on good terms’. She’s now thinking about what kind of work she should be doing. ‘I’m currently doing a course on neurolinguistic programming, which is giving me insight into my (unconscious) beliefs and behaviours. I’m also very interested in spirituality and sustainability. I’ve not yet fully identified what it is I should be doing, but I’m confident the answer will come’.
Edwin is pleased with how Gina’s reintegration has gone. ‘Regardless of whether a client returns to their existing job, my aim is to minimise the consequences of absenteeism for everyone involved. And in medical terms, Gina is now fully recovered’. According to Edwin, Gina's employer also reacted positively to the outcome, although they were very sorry to have to say goodbye to her. 'Of course, that's not what you hope for as an employer. But if Gina had not received the guidance we offered, there is a good chance she would have dropped out again with physical and/or mental complaints. Which would have made the situation much more complex. Gina's employer certainly realises this as well, he let us know in our conversations'.
Since he deals with employers and company doctors as well as individual employees, Edwin says he’s able to gain a complete picture of a situation and hence provide more effective help. ‘You very quickly develop a connection, which means you can provide genuine added value. And that’s what I like most about my job: you can see that your work is making a difference on all sides’.